Pilot project will test feasibility of cameras for frontline officers
The New Glasgow Regional Police will have a bit more peace of mind in the next couple of months as they will have the benefit of wearing body cameras to record what they see and do during some situations.
With accusations of police brutality across the world, police departments are starting to gear up with body cameras for their safety as well as the safety of the public, with the added benefit of providing a clear picture of what happens in situations where a he-said-she-said argument could muddy waters.
There haven’t been any incidents in New Glasgow or Trenton to spark the use of cameras in the area but after implementing and working with dash cameras for a while as well as better technology, body cameras were a logical next step.
“Our cars don’t necessarily have the 360-degree coverage that our officers can,” said NGRP Deputy Chief Ryan Leil who is behind the logistics and research that has gone into the body cameras at the department. For the next two months, four of the department’s officers who spend time on active duty in the communities will be wearing the cameras as a pilot project before the department decides if the technology is what they are looking for.
The cameras cost around $1,000 per unit, including data storage, chargers and software. For the purpose of the pilot project however, Watchguard — the company that makes the dash cameras the department uses — lent the NGRP two cameras to test before they buy enough for everyone to use. Attached to the front of the officer’s vests the cameras offer a point of view of the officer and must be turned on and off by the officer when needed, although Leil did share that they do background recording up to 14 hours automatically in case a situation escalates and they don’t get the chance to hit the on button.
“A lot of our incidents or calls become very dynamic,” Leil shared, adding that as well as protection for the officer as a way to de-escalate a situation by pointing out they’re wearing a camera, the cameras benefit the public due to the clear record of what happens during a situation. “This data becomes a good training opportunity for us,” he added.
In order to use the cameras, Leil also developed a policy for use where he took use instructions and recommendations from the manufacturer, Calgary Police, who have a long-standing body cam program, and studies from Ontario to make sure rules and procedures for use are clear. The procedures include guidelines like when officers are permitted to record and when they are not, such as in situations where the person on camera is somewhere that a degree of privacy can be expected, such as their home.
Leil also feels that the footage from cameras will be able to help more with complaints that might come into the department about cases because it will be able to set things straight rather than relying on the word of an officer or member of the public. The goal is also to create a bit of awareness around the program so more citizens know that the department has body cameras rather than it coming as a surprise.
“We want to raise awareness and try to educate the public on the benefits,” he said.
As with most of the data that they collect, Leil added that footage from body cameras is available for those that want to see it via the Freedom of Information Protection of Property Act, which allows citizens to be able to apply to receive records that are held by offices, or it can be given to an accused with the disclosure of evidence for a case.
NGRP is not the first department to adopt this technology locally, however; Leil shared that Stellarton Police are also deploying cameras. Police in Kentville brought in the cameras to their force two years ago.
Overall, feedback from officers on the new equipment is positive as well.
“It helps our safety as we are giving them a moment to reassess their actions,” said Const. Kelly Moore-Reid, one of the pilot project officers who was happy to try out the new equipment.
“What we hope to achieve here is increased transparency,” said Leil.